Sadness and Frustration With Arthritis Cross Over Into Depression

A Look at Depression Associated With Arthritis

Pensive older Black woman clutching pillow
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Depression is a common problem for people with arthritis and related conditions. The United States National Health and Nutrition study showed that 16% of people with chronic musculoskeletal pain had depression and other studies have shown an incidence of depression as high as:

Young patients with rheumatoid arthritis may be at an increased risk of depression due to an increase in pain and stress.

Sadness or Depression?

There are two questions that may help determine whether sadness and frustration experienced by people who have a chronic illness have crossed over into depression:

(1) During the past month, have you often been bothered by feeling down, depressed or hopeless?

(2) During the past month, have you often been bothered by having little interest or pleasure in doing things?

If the answer is no to both, it is unlikely major depression.

Warning Signs And Symptoms

Even if a patient does not have major depression, it is important to notify your doctor if you have any of the following signs and symptoms including:

  • depressed mood
  • lack of interest or pleasure in your usual activities
  • weight changes
  • sleep disturbances
  • lack of energy
  • excessive guilt
  • poor concentration
  • thoughts of death or suicide

Remember, if you experience any of these signs and symptoms, counseling (social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist) and medication may be needed to get back on track.

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Article Sources
  • Hawley DJ, Wolfe F J Rheumatol 1993;20, NEJM Vol 343 Number 26
  • Scott J. Zashin, M.D., clinical assistant professor at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Division of Rheumatology, Dallas, Texas. He is an attending physician at Presbyterian Hospitals of Dallas and Plano.